“The mountain doesn’t say you are black, you are white, you are weak, you are strong. It’s one rule for everybody. If you give up, you die.”
People often confuse Kedarkantha with the more famous Kedarnath pilgrimage & I was no exception to that. Kedarkantha, located within the Govind Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand has seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. Deemed to be one of the best winter treks in India, Kedarkantha is one of those rare Himalayan treks that remains accessible even during winters. Suitable for those looking to begin their journey into the Himalayas as well as experienced trekkers looking to take a breather, the Kedarkantha trek offers a unique experience of trekking through snowy trails and getting a glimpse of life in the mountains in the dreary yet scenic winters.
With a trail filled with thick oak and pine forests, wide-open green meadows, serene lakes, picture-perfect campsites and a panoramic view of the majestic Himalayan peaks, Kedarkantha is the perfect amalgamation of challenge, adventure and beauty.
Grade: Easy | Beginner
Altitude: 12,500 ft
Base Village: Sankri
Kedarkantha Trek Distance: 25 km (Approx)
Best Season for Kedarkantha Trek: December to April
Kedarkantha Trek Duration: 4 days (Sankri – Sankri)
- 55L/65L Rucksack (MUST)
- 10L/15L Daypack for summit push (MUST)
- Waterproof Gloves (MUST)
- Fleece Jacket
- Poly-fill Jacket (MUST)
- Woolen Socks (MUST)
- Head Torch (MUST)
- Porta Hand Torch
- 2-3 Full Sleeves T-shirt (MUST)
- Thermals (T-shirt & Pant) (MUST)
- Rain Poncho (MUST)
- Hiking Pole (If you want to save some money then you can rent a wooden stick at Sankri itself, which will hardly cost Rs.50/-) (MUST)
- Trekking Shoes (MUST)
- 2-3 Quick-Dry Hiking Pants (MUST)
- Extra Pair of Slippers/Sandals (MUST)
- Face Cover, Woolen Cap, Balaclava (MUST)
- Energy Bar, Dry fruits, ORS, Glucose (MUST)
- Waterproof Snow Pants
- Polarized Sunglasses (MUST)
- Sunscreen, Moisturizer
- Sleeping Bag
- Camping Tent
It is believed by the locals that the Pandavas went to the Himalayas to seek Lord Shiva’s blessings. Lord Shiva though, hid from Bheem and disguised himself as a bull. Bheem however recognised him and pursued him which is why Lord Shiva hid underground. In order to escape from his hiding place, he divided his body and ensured each part fell in a different place. His throat fell on this peak, thereby giving Kedarkantha its name, which literally means “the throat of Lord Shiva”.
Another legend recounts that the Pandavas sought Lord Shiva to pardon them for their sins on the advice of Lord Krishna. They had killed their king during the Mahabharata. Lord Shiva was angry with them for their conduct and avoided them by taking the form of a bull and leaving for the Garhwal region. The Pandavas sighted Lord Shiva grazing as a bull in the hills of Guptkashi and tried to grab its tail and legs forcibly. The bull disappeared into the ground and later reappeared as Lord Shiva at five places- the hump at Kedarnath, the legs at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the stomach at Madhyamaheshwar and the hair at Kalpeshwar.
Plan of Action:
- Day 1: We took a flight from Mumbai to Dehradun (Jolly Grant Airport)
Mumbai to Dehradun
- After Reaching Dehradun, we visited the Robbers Cave. A stream beautifully flows through this cave. It really is a jewel of a place. Do take out some time and visit this natural wonder.
Walking down the Robber’s Cave, Dehradun
- Next, we visited the famous Dehradun Zoo. It is a beautiful zoo with numerous species of animals & birds. If time permits, give it a shot.
Some of the wildlife at the Dehradun Zoo
- By the end of the day, we reached Mussoorie. It was quite a scenic drive. The ‘Queen of the hills’ welcomed us with open arms. The view from our hotel left us spellbound. You could visit the local market while there.
Pro Tip: ALWAYS KEEP YOUR WINDOWS/BALCONY SHUT!
(While enjoying the view from our hotel balcony, I forgot to shut it & a couple of monkeys took the opportunity to gobble up all our dry snacks and protein bars, not to mention the complete mess they made of our room.)
- We headed out early the next day, rented out 2-wheelers and intended to explore the city. It was indeed a great joy discovering the unseen & less known aspects of such a scenic place. We spent two nights and covered every corner of this beautiful city.
Lal tibba, Mussoorie
Kempty Falls, Mussoorie
- The next morning, our bus picked us up en-route Sankri (The base village for Kedarkantha). While the ride was windy, long, fast(the drivers there are a different breed altogether), persistent with constant ups and downs(quite literally so), the scenery as we traversed our way through the mountains more than made up for the discomfort.
- The seemingly gentle flow of streams below, the deep blue sky occasionally marked with polka dotted clouds and some gentle music soothed the eyes & the soul beyond words. To quote what I felt “Raste khoobsurat hai manzil se bhi”.
- After the long journey, we reached Sankri at around 6pm. While it was already chilly, the handful glimpses of snow we’d seen on our way had already gotten us excited to see more of the snow-clad mountains and in particular, Juda ka Talab(the frozen lake). Later that evening, we went to the local market and bought a few essential items for the trek. (Basic food and stuff, which the monkeys stole from my bag :p)
Our Hostel At Sankri (Base Village of Kedarkantha Trek)
Trek Begins (Sankri Village – Kedarkantha):
Day 1 – Adventure Begins
- After acclimatizing with the surroundings, I took a quick shower that day, had scrumptious breakfast and got all ready for our hike. I also made a furry friend that morning, “Baghera”.
- After packing our bags for the trek & leaving the extra luggage at Sankri, we began our hike with a short introduction. Taking cautious steps, we walked at a steady pace. Our first campsite was at “Juda ka Talab” (The frozen lake). The entire trail was picturesque. With every step, the view kept on becoming prettier and magical. All of my exhaustion & fatigue was compensated by the mesmerizing surroundings.
Sankri - Juda Ka Talab
- While walking around the trail, as I observed the locals working in their tiny huts, running their small-time businesses and leading their day to day life without any network or mobile connection, the stark reality of what a different life they lead dawned upon me.
- Juda ka Talab: Our first stop for the trek. We pitched our tents here. It was freezing cold out there. The transition after the sunset was surreal and that was the day I experienced what it feels like to sleep under a blanket of stars.
Juda Ka Talab Campsite
Day 2 - Onward and UpwardsAfter having our meal, we got dressed up, put on our crampons, fixed our gaiters, attached microspikes & began our hike towards Kedarkantha Summit Base Camp. From here on, one can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding snow-clad peaks including Bandarpoonch, Swargarohini, Kala Nag, and Ranglana to name a few. The Kedarkantha peak is also clearly visible from here!
- Kedarkantha Base Camp: It was no less than a blessing having experienced the sunset from here. It is a very calm and serene campsite with snow all around you. After having our lunch over here, I witnessed one of the most magical sights I’ve ever seen - snowfall in the Himalayas. This was the first time in my life I ever witnessed snowfall and I knew words would never be enough to describe the beauty my eyes witnessed.
Kedarkantha Base Camp
Day 3 - The final push
- Summit Push 03:00 Hours: The Kedarkantha summit, marked by a Trishul pointing to the sky, is around 2 hours away from the base camp and can be reached through several routes. It is advisable to start the trek before dawn (as early as 3 AM) in order to catch the mesmerizing sunrise (usually at around 7 AM) from atop the peak. Apart from the breathtaking sunrise, the Kedarkantha summit offers 360-degree views of the surrounding Himalayan ranges including Gangotri, Yamunotri, Chanshil Pass, and Kinnaur Kailash ranges. Waking up at 3am in the morning, having a cup of black coffee, taking my small daypack with a bottle of water & some protein bars & of course my headlamp along with a hiking pole, I was all set to scale the beautiful and mighty Kedarkantha Summit. It was a well inclined climb with almost 80-degrees at a few stretches. It was an exhausting one, yet keeping eyes on the final destination, I kept on walking. Along with the Sherpas, I was amongst the few leading the trail. I traversed my way to the peak gradually as faint glimmers of daylight began to shine in the bright, untouched Himalayan skies. Just in time for one of the most glorious moments of my life, I managed to reach the summit. The moment I reached the top, it was an altogether different feeling, a major adrenaline rush. Amazing is an understatement for the views there.
As you walk down the mighty summit, there is a surge of emotions that rushes through you. But there is one which in my opinion is most important, and that is the feeling of utter contentment. Go for Kedarkantha, go for the mountains not merely because they are calling you, but because you have love and respect for them which cannot be described. Do it not because you want to show the world, do it so that you know for yourself, that this is one of the finest reasons for existence. Always travel safe, never pollute.
All the trek related information stated above is from my own experience. It may vary from person to person. Additionally, stay updated about government norms and weather conditions before planning the trek.